Zacarias Moussaoui Is A Big Jerk

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I doubt that Zacarias Moussaoui had any prior knowledge of the 9/11 attacks, and as Jeff Taylor noted in his masterful story on the attacks, the FBI ignored the clues he inadvertently provided by his behavior; so strictly speaking he is going to be executed (probably) for a crime he didn't commit. But has anybody ever given a more persuasive performance as a terrorist supervillain? I was going to say "a Central Casting terrorist supervillain," but even a Central Casting character actor couldn't come up with Moussaoui's maddening antics: For that you'd need a real Method genius. (His "Burn In the USA" rendition has even made me go back on my longstanding principle that anybody who takes a swipe at The Boss is OK in my book.) How would you like to be the guy testifying about how his daughter is coping with his wife's death while Moussaoui mocks him? There's something humiliating about this whole process: It's like when they send neo-Nazi wiseacres to get lectured by Holocaust survivors on the assumption that this encounter will finally make them see the error of their ways.

I have no big insights. It's just frustrating for two reasons: Because Moussaoui deserves to be scalped and bastinadoed and crocodile-sheared and bamboo-fingernailed, not executed. (That's an emotional reaction, not a policy recommendation.) And because, as with all the other post-9/11 bait-and-switches, I'm getting mad at somebody who probably had nothing to do with the attack.

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  1. It’s just frustrating for two reasons: Because Moussaoui deserves to be scalped and bastinadoed and crocodile-sheared and bamboo-fingernailed, not executed. (That’s an emotional reaction, not a policy recommendation.)

    Careful, someone may accuse you of pulling a Max Borders…

  2. Tim,

    Would you rather that he had been tried and executed in secret by a military tribunal to spare these frustrations?

    I don’t (being a “troll”), but your post suggests that that would have been the way to go.

  3. Dave, Tim made no such suggestion.

    Take your meds, dude.

  4. Moussaoui deserves to be executed — but he deserves it morally, not legally, at least under the prosecution’s theory of the case. It’s absurd to claim that any lies he told kept the feds from preventing the attacks, for reasons left as an exercise for the reader.

    However, does anyone know why he wasn’t tried for his role in the conspiracy? It’s not unheard of for co-conspirators to be subject to punishment for all the crimes committed by others in the conspiracy, on the theory that their participation aided and abetted (if only by moral encouragement) the actual crime-doers.

  5. Mediageek,

    It was a serious and sincere question.

    And, no, I don’t have any “gotcha” ready for Tim if he says “military tribunal.” I think a lot of good has come out of the Moussaoui trial, but they had like a whole article about that right here at Reason, and I am sure Tim is familiar with all that. I am just more interested in what he rates the various imperfect options against each other.

  6. You know, I’m really in favor of reforming prisons because NOBODY deserves to be ass raped while locked in a cage. But Moussaoui really gives me second thoughts on that.

    Either way, the best outcome for him a death sentence. He gets to be a martyr and becomes WAY more important in death than he ever was in life. Throw him in a hole and throw away the hole, but for Zod’s sake, don’t execute him.

  7. I’ve heard mixed things about the precise extent of Moussaoui’s involvement. Moussaoui himself is probably not the most credible witness concerning his involvement with 9/11. By some accounts, Al Qaeda didn’t really trust the guy, since the whole point of a “sleeper cell” is that they have to stay calm and maintain a low profile. If his post-arrest behavior is any indicator, Moussaoui didn’t exactly fit that role.

    However, if the guy goes before the jury and insists that he was a key player, and does everything in his power to come across as a very dangerous terrorist, what else do you expect the jury to do?

    He may be a crazy nut, but that hardly helps his case. “Your honor, please spare our client. He is so crazy that even Al Qaeda didn’t want him.”

    Yeah, not gonna work.

  8. “You know, I’m really in favor of reforming prisons because NOBODY deserves to be ass raped while locked in a cage.”

    Most likely he’d be locked up in some supermax facility where he would have extremely limited contact with other inmates.

    They reserve the ass-rapin’ for those eeeevul dope smokers.

  9. “You know, I’m really in favor of reforming prisons because NOBODY deserves to be ass raped while locked in a cage.”

    Most likely he’d be locked up in some supermax facility where he would have extremely limited contact with other inmates.

    They reserve the ass-rapin’ for those eeeevul dope smokers.

  10. Moussaoui is like Jesus…at least the way the Book of Judas describes him…say whatever craziness you can to have your soul released from the prison of earthly existence…by someone else…who knows, in 1700 years maybe a worldwide religious movement will have formed around his death…or maybe Global Warming will take care of all that first.

  11. what’s with the new filter to curb malicious postings that just told me to try again with my submission? Am I guilty? Was I saying something wrong? What’s this nonsense on the web’s ‘best libertarian blog’?

  12. I don’t think we should have prisons at all. Or if we do have them, we should only have them for 100th of the prisoners that we have now. And the warden and voters would be liable for any crimes committed against the prisoners.

  13. I’m sure the families are getting about as much satisfaction out this as the families of those slain by Colin Ferguson. Which is probably minimal, because both of the defendants are/were fucking nuts.

  14. I’m falling into the lock him in a cage and forget about him opinion. But I do think the guy is obviously cracked, although I (shockingly) agree that an in-public trial was probably best.

  15. Didn’t Moussaoui say that he and Richard Reid were supposed to pilot their own plane on Sept. 11th? And since Moussaoui seems more or less like the Gallic equivalent of Reid’s brainless, easily persuadable yob, how many folks out there think this was even a remote possibility? (“Dumb and Dumberer: The Al-Qaeda Cell” anyone?) Repeatedly, Moussaoui has proven that he’s, shall we say, a few sticks short of a TNT cummerbund.

    His behavior towards the families of 9/11 victims has been atrocious, to be sure. And although I support the death penalty, I still think we’re better of with him as a lifer, gibbering to, and drooling on, himself for years and years to come. To execute him will only help him achieve his lifetime goal of being dead. Better he should become a permanent reminder that if you scratch a jihad-seeker, you’ll find a psycho underneath.

  16. (His “Burn In the USA” rendition has even made me go back on my longstanding principle that anybody who takes a swipe at The Boss is OK in my book.)

    Funny coincidence: A moment ago, just before checking out Hit and Run today, I was listening to a Yahoo radio station. After skipping past a bunch of songs I didn’t like, Bruce Springsteen’s “Born To Run” came on. I vowed I would skip it, even if it were my last available skip for the next hour. (They only allow so many skips per hour). (Of course, there is a way around that limitation, anyway).

  17. However, if the guy goes before the jury and insists that he was a key player, and does everything in his power to come across as a very dangerous terrorist, what else do you expect the jury to do?

    I’d expect the jury to rule exactly as they did. Like I said, I’m not making any policy recommendations, just noting that Moussaoui is an asshole.

    I’d also say his behavior even without the confession strongly indicates prior knowledge of a 9/11-style attack, if not the 9/11 attack itself-it just wasn’t proven beyond a reasonable doubt. But like you said, faced with a direct confession by the accused, what are you gonna do?

  18. This man wants to die and is deliberately antagonizing the court to that end, and that’s exactly why he should be denied his wish.

    It is a higher victory for us if we do not execute him, with a statement as follows: “We will not make this person a martyr to the corrupt death cult that perpetrated Sept. 11. We are better than the small group of people who are trying to use Islam for their perverse, criminal ends.”

  19. But like you said, faced with a direct confession by the accused, what are you gonna do?

    I think Moussaoui’s point with all the theatrics is that this was a show trial with a predetermined outcome from the start. The judge certainly can point out to the jury (with whatever degree of firmness) that they are free to disregard Moussaoui’s testimony and courtroom theatrics and focus on who is actually guilty of what in a causation of harm sense (which is important unless you want to slide down the slippery slope of deathpenalty thoughtcrime). Then again, if she does that too much (or if the jury decides to use their own brains), then the jury might not impose the death penalty

    Moussaoui’s point is that we don’t follow our own laws, and he is trying to stretch the contradictions in a way that makes everybody uncomfortable. It is good that Tim is uncomfortable. That is Moussaoui’s point and it is a good point. He is making his point way better than a traditional defense would. he seems willing to jeopardize his life to make the point, but I will stop now lest I slip into . . .

  20. >>I think Moussaoui’s point with all the theatrics is that this was a show trial with a predetermined outcome from the start.

    Maybe. But if you buy Moussaoui’s argument, then you’re allowing him to define down the term “show trial” and to make it the equivalent of our admittedly imperfect American judicial system.

    I’ll take our imperfect American judicial system, thank you.

  21. But if you buy Moussaoui’s argument, then you’re allowing him to define down the term “show trial” and to make it the equivalent of our admittedly imperfect American judicial system.

    The funny thing is I pretty much agree with you. I think the jury may not hand the death penalty. I think the trial has been pretty fair, all things considered.

    As far as any injustice to Moussaoui, I see two possible ones that concern me somewhat:

    1. This idea that he had a duty to confess. Now one might argue that he only had a duty to confess because he was a non-citizen; that somebody like, say, McNichols, would not have had the same duty if apprehended prior to the Okla City bombing, but that brings me to the next point:

    2. I don’t think we should accord foreigners less rights in a criminal trial than our own citizens. I would not like it if other nations made special crimes for US citizens, and I would hope the US would extend a reciprocal courtesy to the world, including even that fiend Moussaoui. Why should someone get less justice bcs they were born on the wrong side of an imaginary line on a map (eh, hnR regulars?).

    In these senses, Moussaoui a couple of bona fide bones of contention.

  22. For what it’s worth, I don’t think Moussaoui is unhinged. I think he’s trying to manipulate public opinion in his favor. And I think that if he’s his own PR adviser, he’s got a fool for a client.

    The court of American public opinion tends to favor a repentant defendant. I wouldn’t want to bet which way the jury is going to go.

    It is uncomfortable and disturbing. That’s terrorism for ya.

  23. How about giving him the death penalty, but never implementing it. We get to “tell” islamo-facists what we think of their antics, but they don’t get a martyr out of it.

  24. This man wants to die and is deliberately antagonizing the court to that end, and that’s exactly why he should be denied his wish.

    I can see the defense now… “Yes your honor, my client has admitted to raping and killing several young women, but you see your honor, he wants to die”

    I can see a lot of reasons to be anti-death penalty, but the wishes of the defendant don’t rank very high.

  25. don’t some forms of schizophrenia result in gradiose, delusional behavior like Moussaoui exhibits? he could be attempting to fake schizophrenia for a later insanity defense on appeal. or he could be genuinely schizophrenic.

  26. Tim Cavanaugh writes, “I’d also say his behavior even without the confession strongly indicates prior knowledge of a 9/11-style attack, if not the 9/11 attack itself?it just wasn’t proven beyond a reasonable doubt.”

    Tim, why even write this? Were you on the jury?

    I’ve served on exactly one jury in my whole life. A very interesting (and sad) medical malpractice case.

    I’m 100 percent sure we as the jury made the right decision; a preponderance of evidence did not show “medical malpractice” as defined by the laws of North Carolina.

    I would be extremely insulted if someone outside the jury said we got that decision wrong. This would be especially true if the person making the statement hadn’t heard ***every single word*** of the testimony (as well as actually seeing all the witnesses as they were testifying), and had not reviewed ***every single piece*** of evidence presented.

    I’m virtually certain you have not done that in the Moussaoui trial. So why insult the jury in such a way?

  27. So I guess that means OJ’s innocent?

  28. And in fact, where did I insult the jury-by saying that given the confession I’d expect them to rule exactly as they did? Think before you talk.

  29. I criticized Tim Cavanaugh for writing, “I’d also say his behavior even without the confession strongly indicates prior knowledge of a 9/11-style attack, if not the 9/11 attack itself?it just wasn’t proven beyond a reasonable doubt.”

    Tim Cavanaugh responds, “So I guess that means OJ’s innocent?”

    Then he has the unmitigated gall to add this ironic advice for me, “Think before you talk.”

    So, Tim, based on your deep thinking, the O.J. Simpson verdict is analogous to the Zacarias Moussaoui verdict?

    Do you think Nicole Simpson and Ron Brown may have died of natural causes? Or after even more deep thought, you agree with Johny Cochrane that, “If the glove doesn’t fit, you must acquit?” Or that there was a massive conspiracy of evidence planting?

    Unless you think that Nicole Simpson and Ron Brown died of natural causes, it’s pretty clear that SOMEONE killed them. And unless you think that answer to the second and/or third questions is yes, the evidence appears to point extremely strongly at O.J. Simpson. (I wonder how his search for Nicole’s killer is coming?)

    On the other had, you YOURSELF have written about the Moussaoui verdict, “I’d also say his behavior even without the confession strongly indicates prior knowledge of a 9/11-style attack, if not the 9/11 attack itself?…”

    So why did you feel the need to even add your (uninformed) opinion that, “…it just wasn’t proven beyond a reasonable doubt?” Isn’t the call close enough that you should give the umpires (the jury) the benefit of the doubt that they got the call right? Especially considering that you almost certainly haven’t bother to repeatedly watch the instant replay (i.e. read through the complete court transcripts, and review all presented evidence)?

  30. And by the way, Tim, you can use a course in Logic. You wrote, “And in fact, where did I insult the jury?by saying that given the confession I’d expect them to rule exactly as they did?”

    By that logic, if I told you that I expected Antonin Scalia to rule exactly as he did in Gonzales vs Raich, would you think that I am not insulting Antonin Scalia?

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